Travel impressions IV

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IV.

Neferkare and Antef I, were followed respectively by Kheti III from Heracleopolis and Uakhankh Antef II from Thebes, they inherited the dynastic conflict, the eternal rivalry between the north and south.
Kheti III, embarked on the ambitious venture of conquer the prefecture of Abidos at the South and also in expel the
Asian invaders  out of the Delta. Later, his successor, Merikare, would be forced to leave Heracleopolis, fleeing from a citizen revolt prompted by the general uprising of the cities of the Delta, once again they were jealous of its independence, so the king rushed to seek shelter between the princes of Siut, who managed to restore the power to Merikare. The kings of Thebes at that time took advantage of the attrition suffered by both sides to undertake the conquest of the North, in a similar way to as Narmer (Menes) had made a thousand years before.

Heracleopolis and their faithful allies of the territories of Siut and Hermopolis, could not resist a long time, the attacks of the hosts of Antef III, who despite his military success, he would have to immediately deal with the anxieties of the independence of the Delta and the lands of feudal princes, who once again, at this time, they rebelled against the new Theban dynasty , unsuccessfully insomuch as all the territories were “pacified” after several battles. Thereafter, in imitation of the dynasties of Heracleopolis, all efforts of the kings of Thebes were directed to attempt to recover the central role of the monarchy such as it had existed before the feudal period.

Mentuhotep III (Mentu is satisfied), probably was who really conducted that thing of what it already boasted Mentuhotep II: the “pacification” of the Upper and Lower Egypt. But as according to the feudal code, the monarch was then, just the first of the princes, and as the feudal prince only recognizes to the god of his own nomo above him, it was need to impose a religious reform in order to change this fact. During the feudal period, the vast majority of people had fallen into illiteracy, and religious conceptions were denatured, causing an involutional process by which the Upper Egypt had returned to the primitive worship of the goddess mother. Mut at Thebes was the tutelary goddess of the city, in Cusae she was Hathor, in Nekhen she was Nekhbet, etc, on the other hand endures the influence of the cult of Min, who at this time, it traditionally associated with Horus, and that exceeded widely the field of Koptos.

The prefecture of Un (Jmun) as the former colony of Hermopolis (Per Djehuti “Thot’s house”) retained the worship of the prestigious god Thot, around of what is stablished the necessary syncretism , in which the dynasties of Thebes were supported.

It was necessary to construct a new theology, to recover some of the essence of sun worship, if they wanted rid of the feudal monarchy of ballast, and for this effect was updated an archaic god, Amun, to place it  into the theology of Thot, in the site that Ra occupied, in the solar cosmogony.
Abidos and Un share importance in religious matters, Amon was promoted from the prefecture of Un, while Abidos remains the center of the cult of Osiris. Once in a lifetime at least it was mandatory for the faithful, a pilgrimage to Abidos, and so much was in that way, that who could not to do it during his life, had to do it after death, for what the dead were provided, into his grave, with tiny symbolic boats with which to reach Abidos. Around this time also the offerings that have traditionally belonged to the deceased, become offerings to Osiris, judge of the dead, in order to motivate this god to be benign with the deceased.

The next goal against the feudal system was achieved by Mentuhotep III, who reinstated the profession of vizier, with the peculiarity that it was no longer , a hereditary title , and therefore it escaped from the feudal framework . In a short time, it is added to the title of vizier,  the title of “Hatia”(prince), what placed to the vizier at an equal level of else princes, and later, besides, the vizier came to use the honorary degrees, so baroque, inherited from the era Memphite, such as “Chancellor of the King and director of the High Court and Chief of the Court of the Six Halls”, in this way the King through the vizier, using his legal and administrative power against the nobles, stood at the top of the hierarchical pyramid reconstituted.


Mentuhotep III took pains to keep open the route of the caravans, the Wadi Hammamat
, to trade between the cities of the Nile and the Arabian markets  and the Punt, (somewhere on the Somali coast), thereby strengthening the tax benefits of the monarchy. Mentuhotep IV opened quarries in the area and Mentuhotep V ended to build a port at Wadi Gasus, which started Mentuhotep IV in the Red Sea coast.
Mentuhotep IV was expelled from the throne probably by some nobles conspirators, putting an usurper Mentuhotep V  in his place, who neither lasted so much, due to a new usurper, who was deposed soon afterwards by a man outside the nobility, former vizier of Mentuhotep V, Amenemhat
I ( “Amun is underway”,or also “Amun is the first one” ) who founded the Twelfth Dynasty. The feudal princes came to consider intolerable that an official hold to power, so that by dark palace intrigues, they achieved to kill Amenemhat, after several attempts, but they could not do the same with his son, Sesostris I, who inherited the crown.

Besides these political vicissitudes, which also are reflected in the tale of this period “Sinuhe“, dynasties XI and XII were at pains to recover the artistic techniques and construction, which had virtually disappeared and in order to fight against the abandonment, they spreaded temples and all kind of monuments from here to there, even in areas outside the territory of Egypt. Much was lost during the feudal period, however the cities of the North probably had preserved the essence, (several statues, curiously manufactured in wood, are from this period) from which again arise, the Egyptian monumental art, but never exceeded the level reached during the Old Empire. The statue of Mentuhotep II and even the funerary complex in Deir el Bahari built by Mentuhotep IV, are alien to the tradition and represent an innovation, although onwards is tried to seek a return to classicism.

Different beliefs about life in the beyond, which had flourished during the feudal period can be grouped into two systems, the solar model, around Amun Ra and the agricultural religious system, around Osiris in the north and around Min at south, and both systems, the solar system and agricultural system, are laboriously interwoven, into the “Book of the Dead.” The cult of Amun is the cult of monarchy, and the center of this new theology will be the new holy city of Karnak where was built the sanctuary of Amun, from which retains only a small kiosk erected by Sesostris I. Amun (Ra) suffered a quite radical adjustment in the attempt to link him with Osiris, so that now Ra, an inmaterial entity, completely spiritual in its origin, will end up being a spirit only during the day whereas that during the night over the underground trip, it will be Iufu (“meat”, Auf-Ra, the ram), vested with material body, a twisted concept, emanating from the own myth of Osiris, where Ra is “contaminated” with the material world at the time of the resurrection of Osiris, when embrace the body of him, when the creative spirit (Ra) and goodness (Osiris) are mixed .

Amenemhat IV is the last king of the XIIth Dynasty, Queen Sebeknefrure goes after him, possibly as a regent in place of a minor child, but shortly after her it will take the power Sekhemre Khutaui, who inaugurate the XIIIth dynasty. Many kings will take over the power after him, in a matter of 50 years, using the royal names of Amenemhat and Sesostris, which indicates a certain continuity in the policy of centralism of the XII Dynasty. These are dark times for some researchers, as dark is the movement of people that from the north pushes  the Bedouins against the boundaries of Egypt, are the times of the biblical Joseph, son of Jacob.
Meanwhile the Achaeans conquered Greece, the Hittites settled in Asia Minor and the Persian and the Medes take over the current Iran;  the Babylon of Hammurabi flourished during a brief period, Egypt regains his influence over the coast of Retenu and  commercial empire of the Minoans, reaches its zenith. In a world convulsed, Egypt tried to adapt to the new situation, allowing go into its territory to “carriers of flocks”, ie those that demostrated be solvent, instead of closing their borders in front of the human avalanche.

After Seankhtaui Sekhemkare, successor of Sekhemre Khutaui , the country is divided again. Xois and then, Tanis will be the capital of the reign of the North in the hands of the general Semenkhkare Mermesha. Later a new king, Sekhemre Seuadjtaui, would get togheter “the two lands” again. His successor Khasekhemre Neferhotep expanded the egyptian hegemony as far as Byblos. It seems that during the reign de Khaneferre Sebekhotep, the successor of Khasekhemre, the capital of Egypt could have been located in Tanis, a major port relatively close to the Fayum, the fertile land exclusive property of the monarchy since the Heracleopolitans dinasties. During this time, the supplying for the huge volume of people, both indigenous and immigrant, and the attention of foreign demand, transformed the country into a huge barn. A really good administration, in fact some of the kings that followed were sons of experienced officials, for a time kept the economy afloat even if meant a substantial increase of feudal power, given the prevailing agricultural system.

Later, commercial relations are stopped and series of bad harvests caused the lack of supplies for the population, whose result was the fragmentation of royal power, the princes of the nomos, simultaneously, founded dynasties in order to extend his authority here and there by virtue of eventual alliances, for a time there was a XIVth dynasty at Xois,in the Delta, until in a given moment, Upper Egypt appears governed by a certain Didumes (that may be a phonetic perversion of Thutmosis) , and the Lower in hands of the king Nehesi (“black man”) about who some expert think that he already is vassal of those who will invade Egypt soon, the hicsos. We do not know to what extent was a traumatic invasion, because although, the kings of the Empire New will strive to dramatizing those times, apparently they only pretended enhance the splendor of his own time, today is discussed much about this one, in fact it is possible that occupation was a pact between the enigmatics aamu (Asians) also called heqa khasut (foreign kings) and the kings of Upper Egypt, who reportedly surrendered without a fight Lower Egypt, retreating to the south, to their own territories. In practice, although they had to pay the tribute, there is evidence that there were good relations between the kings of the south and the hicsos who abandoned their culture of origin, became accustomed to the Egyptian’s manners quickly and deeply, even embracing the royal cult of Seth, the old and traditional god of Upper Egypt, and taking daughters of the kings of the South for wives. Some of the lists of Egyptian kings that have reached us, fill the fifteenth and sixteenth dynasties with names of the kings of Avaris, the new capital of Lower Egypt.

Bibliography: “Ancient Egypt”, Jacques Pirenne.

“Tale of Sinuhe“. Ancient egyptian literature

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